Dunbar and his colleagues at Dartmouth have been studying why it's hard for people to overcome their misconceptions. Their work had built on earlier studies that had found that University students, faculty, and staff, were held onto misconceptions about the origin of seasonal change (perhaps acquired in grade school, junior high, or high school), despite formal coursework in planetary motion or direct instruction with a videotape. Excerpt: "Why did the video, which was supposed to address the misconceptions, have no significant effect on the students? Interestingly both students' responses and their explanations, indicate that they did not encode the relevant information that was inconsistent with their theory."
When fMRI studies were done of students slipping into this same mistake, researchers found that information that fit within a person's preconceived ideas ("plausible") were more readily committed to memory, while contradictory ideas ("implausible") received less attention.
It underscores how important it is not to teach students incorrect concepts while trying to simplify concepts for younger children. It also highlights the importance for verifying knowledge (Socratic inquiry, testing) in order to guarantee mastery of novel concepts.
The tenacious grip of old ideas is a common dilemma of inventors and innovators of various sorts. No wonder, individual turn to transdisciplinary experiences, discussions with outsiders, even dreams to see problems from a different light.
Do naive theories ever go away?
Brain-based mechanisms involving complex causal thinking fmri pdf
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Old Dogs and New Tricks
Technorati tags: education, learning, brain, fMRI, creativity, innovation